Monthly Archives: August 2012

Martin Phillips calls for positive recognition that barge building skills are still thriving

Martin Phillips has today posted a comment to our piece about the film of “The Quay”.   It appears of course on that post, but it is necessary to click on “Comment” in order to see it.    It deserves more prominence, so we repeat it in full here:-

“It is very sad that the landowner’s wish to develop the site has destroyed what had been developed at Standard Quay; however I feel that the coverage of this to date rather ignores reality of what has been achieved by the Thames barge and trad boat community in East Anglia.

It is depressing to read such statements as:  ‘A centre for ancient maritime crafts, the quay is a haven for the few dozen surviving Thames sailing barges.   But Standard Quay’s latest owner, a property developer, plans to turn it into a tourist trap with shops, restaurants and luxury houses….’

This publicity would give the impression that this was the last home of sailing barges and that the preservation skills of barge shipwrights and the home of barges has been destroyed for good by a property developer’s greed.

However this is simply a false picture. What had been achieved at Faversham in the comparatively recent past particularly around the rebuild of Cambria was great, and of course Tim Goldsack is still operating his business (albeit not at Standard Quay). The Iron Wharf is still thriving as are the regular Faversham barges Mirosa and Repertor and Lady of the Lea.

Why can’t someone make an optimistic film publicising the achievements of the TSBT (formerly the barge club) in keeping its barges sailing over the last 64 years, rebuilding two (Pudge and Centaur) WITHOUT Lottery support and taking thousands of people sailing? The Trust’s third hand/mate  training  has produced  about 8 of the current Sailing Barge masters (including myself). It has done so much good to preserve barges and helped to bring people into the  barge scene who go on to work on barges. Let’s celebrate this success please!

Maldon and the Blackwater are  home to a very active fleet of barges and two barge yard (Cooks and Blackwater Marina) with blocks and  2 drydocks operating. Then there is Andy Harman’s yard at St Osyth not to forget the Pioneer rebuild and all the smacks. TS rigging has a thriving trad boat business (rerigging the Cutty Sark for example) and there is a host of evidence that the area is a hot bed of traditional skills and specialist shipwrights, riggers, metal workers, a blacksmith and much much more all based around the rich maritime heritage of the area. Topsail Charters have built a successful business over a quarter of a century preserving a fleet of active barges carrying thousands of passengers a year and employing a group of skippers and mates.

Then there are the barges themselves and the unseen efforts and huge financial commitments of private owners that has produced the wonderful sight of beautifully restored and maintained barges like Marjorie, Adieu, Edith May, Lady Daphne, Repertor, Wyvenhoe,  Lady of the Lea and Phoenician and many others . Private owners are rebuilding barges like Melissa and Niagara, Ethel Maud etc, with more on the way and two new builds completed and more on the way.

I deplore the problems that have ruined all Brian Pain’s efforts to achieve a laudable goal but the picture is far from gloomy! Traditional skills are actually thriving in East Anglia and the fleet of barges and smacks is an often unpublicised gem. Where else in the UK  has a fleet of traditional craft in their home waters been preserved and transformed from cargo carriers and fishing boats to working and pleasure vessels?

Yes what happened at Standard Quay was bad for one person’s dream and destroyed his hopes for the future. I dare say it was undoubtedly bad for Faversham – but that is quite a big issue and no doubt many will debate what is best for the town and the use of its creek for many years to come. 

Let’s celebrate what we are really  achieving guys! Please can someone make a film to show what has been achieved and what a wonderful tradition we have kept going. Tell the public and above all encourage them to join in and come sailing on our wonderful craft.”

Martin has set out a view with which I certainly agree.   It does often seem that Maldon and the other places on the Essex and Suffolk coast are somewhat ignored by some leaders of the barge world.   As he says, there is a thriving barge community in East Anglia, with barge yards, wonderful craftsmen, and a fleet of magnificent vessels who call it their home. 

Advertisements

Dick and Jimmy at Southend

This great picture was taken by Annie Meadows at the Southend Barge Match last Sunday.   Dick Durham and Jimmy Lawrence look like they’ve enjoyed the day.

Edith May from above, on her Open Day

Edith May reports that the Open Days at Halstow Dock over the weekend went well.   They welcomed back some of their regulars to the tea room, and were pleased to meet plenty of new visitors.

David Horobin flew over the barge on Saturday and took this great aerial shot.

Watch “The Quay” – a film by Richard Fleury

This film is well worth watching.   It’s the story of Standard Quay at Faversham, and tells how the Quay was home to some of the last of the shipwrights and other craftsmen, whose services are still in demand.   A developer has applied for planning permission for housing on the quay, and this film is about the traditional working shipyard’s final year

“The Quay”, is a film by Richard Fleury:   “A windswept stretch of English creekside echoing to marsh birds’ calls and the thud of shipwrights’ hammers, Standard Quay is straight from Dickens.    Wooden ships have been built and rebuilt here for a thousand years and, to some, this scruffy wharf is a magical vision of living history.

“A centre for ancient maritime crafts, the quay is a haven for the few dozen surviving Thames sailing barges.   But Standard Quay’s latest owner, a property developer, plans to turn it into a tourist trap with shops, restaurants and luxury houses.   “The Quay” is the story of a traditional working shipyard’s final year.”

Here’s the link to the film on YouTube.

Ipswich and Halstow – the barges are there and open this weekend

It’s Ipswich Maritime Festival this weekend, so on Saturday and Sunday, 18 and 19 August, there will be a huge programme of activities at Ipswich Waterfront, from 10.00am to 6.00pm each day.

Here’s the link to the programme for the day.

There’s lots for children to do, and to interest adults.   The programme lists some of the vessels which will be present, and mentions Lady of Avenel, MT Kent, Thalatta, Centaur, and “Thames Barges”.   Er, what are Thalatta and Centaur then?

There will be Cream Tea Cruises on Victor at 2.00pm on Saturday and Sunday.   We also happen to know that Kitty will be there, at Custom House Quay, and will be offering three hour barge trips.

Meanwhile, further south, Edith May is having Open Days this weekend, and will be open in Halstow Dock on Saturday and Sunday, from 11.00am to 4.00pm.  Cream teas and cake are promised in the Edith May Tearoom.

Sunshine and high temperatures are forecast so it should be a good weekend on the water.

Swale Match photos from Hugh Perks

Hugh Perks has sent us his excellent pictures from the Swale Match.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swale Match – closely fought and exciting

The general opinion seems to be that this year’s Swale Match,

Swale Barge Match fleet 2012

held last Saturday, was the best race of the season.   And it had a “newcomer” in that Niagara took part, less than a week after she returned to the active barge fleet.

Hugh Perks sent us this very welcome Match report:-

“The Match started in light airs east, soon getting up SE and just up to Force 6 for the run home.

Cabby made the fastest start, 20 seconds after the gun.  There were some thrilling finishes. 

Mirosa and Marjorie taking it right down to the wire

In the bowsprit class Mirosa beat Marjorie by the tip of her bowsprit, (half a second between them).  3rd was Lady of the Lea, (the only other bowsprit barge), which incurred a 5 hour penalty for starting 15 minutes early with the staysail barges, and was banned from entering public houses for the next two years. 

In the Staysail Class Niagara and Repertor were neck and neck at the finish, with Repertor one second ahead.  After a protest on the matter of something earlier in the match, Repertor was given a 5 minute time penalty, giving Niagara the victory.   Decima was 3rd, getting the Percy Wildish Cup which was fittingly presented by “Beefy” Wildish’s son.

Repertor and Niagara fighting for the line

Restricted Staysails went to Cabby, (in spite of also incurring a time penalty).  There was a close finish for 2nd place between Phoenician and Orinoco, (27 seconds), but it was given to Orinoco as Phoenician had failed to go round one of the marks.   3rd was Greta and 4th Pudge.

The fastest smack was Alberta, but on handicap went to Emeline.

Around 70 vessels took part in the match.”

(Photos by Dave Brooks)

 

Barges and Horses

What’s the connection between barges and horses?   No, not the horses who plodded along the towpath pulling canal barges.

But David Rye has found a special one.   He watched the Olympic showjumping at Greenwich, and noticed that the first fence featured a Thames sailing barge.   All the fences looked difficult, with bits sticking up that seemed designed to catch a horse unawares, so perhaps it was not too strange to have one with a lighthouse lamp on top of one post, an oil lamp on the other, and a Thames barge attached to one side.

David has sent this link to a pdf of the programme for the showjumping.   It is well worth having a look, but here is what it has to say about Thames sailing barges:-

The Thames sailing barge was a type of commercial sailing boat common on the River Thames in London in the 19th century.   It had a flat bottom, perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary with its shallow waters and narrow rivers.   These barges also traded much further afield, to the North of England, the south coast and even to continental European ports.    Cargoes varied enormously: bricks, mud, hay, rubbish, sand, coal and grain, for example.    Due to the efficiency of a Thames barge’s gear, a crew of only two was enough for most voyages.   Most Thames barges were wooden-hulled, between 80 and 90 feet (25 – 30 metres) long with a beam of around 20 feet (6 metres).    The hull was mainly a hold with two small living areas in the bow and stern;  access was through two large hatchways.   They were usually spritsail rigged on two masts.    The main mast could be lowered to clear bridges.    Most had a topsail above a huge mainsail and a large foresail.    The mizzen was a much smaller mast on which was set a single sail whose main purpose was to aid steering when tacking.   The typical rusty-red colour of the flax sails was due to the dressing used to waterproof them, traditionally made from red ochre, cod oil and seawater.   In good conditions a sailing barge could attain a speed of over 12 knots.   At the turn of the 20th century over 2,000 Thames sailing barges were registered.   Today only a small handful remain, converted to pleasure craft and commonly sailed in annual races which take place in the Thames Estuary.

David says, “I was watching showjumping as we had a chance  –  not normally my scene  –  when I spotted the ‘barge’ so followed it up.   The ‘jib’ is a little small, but maybe to conform with the builder’s contract.   At least we won another gold  –  the first for 60 years.” 

Photo of the day – Before the Swale Match

Nathalie Banaigs had an early start today.   She was at Harty Ferry at 6am ready for the start of the Swale Barge Match.   Here’s her lovely picture of the sun coming up over the moored barges.

 

Photo of the Day – No wind and thick fog!

Ed Gransden posts this plaintive message from Edith May today.   “No wind and thick fog.”

 

%d bloggers like this: